ARCA: Gary Laton Looks for History to Repeat Itself in Charlotte
14 May 1998Albemarle, North Carolina, May 12, 1998 - One year ago, Gary Laton introduced himself to the ARCA Bondo Mar-Hyde Series in a most impressive fashion. Arriving at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the May events as a total rookie, Laton raised more than a few eyebrows by winning the pole for his first career ARCA start, edging series juggernaut Tim Steele. During the race, Laton would lead 42 of 67 laps, finishing third in his series debut. A few days later, he came close to claiming his second pole in as many starts, placing his Tampico Citrus Punch Monte Carlo on the outside of the front row. Following an early race incident, Laton would grab the lead and never look back. Battling with series regular (and 1998 Winston Cup rookie) Jerry Nadeau for the last 30 laps, Laton claimed his first ARCA victory in only his second start. Running a limited schedule the remainder of the season, the Gary Laton Motorsports team would nevertheless show their CMS performance was not a fluke. Gary set a track record in earning his second pole at the Michigan International Speedway, and dominated the season finale at Atlanta, where a cut tire took him out of the lead with less than six laps remaining. This weekend, they return to Charlotte for the ARCA EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 100 confident of defending their title.
"Last year was incredible," stated Laton. "We had tested well before the race, so we were optimistic about our chances. But to leave Charlotte with a win, a pole, a third and an outside pole was more than we could hope for. This year, this Tampico Citrus Punch/Washington Apple team can't wait to get to the track!"
In addition to last year's performance, there are several factors lending credence to the team's confidence heading into this weekend. With additional races under his belt, Gary Laton has gained valuable on-track experience, showing incredible maturity behind the wheel. A key factor in his development has been the continued presence of veteran crew chief David Ifft, who has molded the careers of many top drivers. With a full year together, Ifft and Laton have forged a relationship beyond that of merely driver and crew chief. Another plus lies under the hood of Laton's Monte Carlo, as this year, the power comes from respected engine builder Ron Hutter, one of the top names in the industry. Off the track, associate sponsor Washington Apple Commission has joined primary backer Tampico Citrus Punch on the side of the Gary Laton Motorsports entry, providing the necessary financial support. Finally, as defending race champions, the Laton team can derive a benefit that is vital to a team's success - the experience of winning. Secure in the knowledge that they were able to master the track and the competition a year ago, they return poised to repeat.
"We have a great team, and working together for the last year has just made us stronger" explained Laton. "We're coming into this weekend confident, but know it will take a great effort to succeed. We'll take it one step at a time, starting with qualifying. Our goal is to put our Tampico Citrus Punch/Washington Apple Monte Carlo in victory lane on Saturday. It won't be easy, but if each one of us works hard, and we perform like we're capable of, I have no doubt that's where we'll be!"